Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Books

Show Us Your Books, October edition: Celebrating 2 years!

YOU GUYS. This month marks two years–TWO YEARS–of Show Us Your Books. I cannot even express in words how amazing that is and how honored I am that every month for the last two years, you have linked up and talked books with me and Steph. It is amazing to connect with other readers from all over the world and there are dozens of books I’ve read that maybe I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for your participation. So, as a thank you, we have a little giveaway. Make sure you read through the whole post to see what prizes we have for you guys and enter to win. 

As far as my reads this past month, it was quite a mixed bag both in terms of my reaction to the books and in terms of topic. I don’t want to say it was my most eclectic month on record but it’s definitely a contender. And, as always, these are either direct copies or derivatives of my Litsy reviews (follow me there if you’d like. Just search for my username, Jana).show-us-your-books-2016-300by300

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. You’ll get more of my feedback on this book when Steph and I discuss it on The Armchair Librarians but for now, let’s say that it’s exponentially better than her other book but it’s still an average, standard, passes the time just fine thriller. It’s a perfect plane or vacation book, one that keeps you reading but doesn’t hurt your brain and isn’t 100% unputdownable. She weaves an intriguing story, even if you solve the mystery pretty early on, but the storytelling is kind of lazy and boring at times. That said, I read the book in a day so it didn’t totally suck.

Heartbreaker: Stories by Maryse Meijer. I have mixed feelings about this collection of short stories. On the one hand, it’s a beautiful collection of gorgeously written, sad, and fucked up stories about love and sex and relationships and the really dark parts of all of those. On the other hand, they were so damn weird that I struggled through it at times. But I guess that’s what made it so compelling. I can’t say that I recommend it to everyone, because some might find some of the stories  offensive or way too out there, but it was good. Very good.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. While written in typical Picoult formula, it’s probably the most relevant and intense book of hers I’ve read (save for Nineteen Minutes. Probably on par with that). It addresses all the things regarding racism we’re afraid to confront and you can tell the care she took in researching and writing. This book will give you all the emotions and, in the end, gives you pause to truly think. This is not an easy book, and might upset people, but I’m glad it’s out there (and I can’t wait until Steph and I get to see her talk about it). *received as an ARC from NetGalley

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware. NOPE NOPE NOPE. There was nothing about this book I liked except maybe the news reports and emails. Had I not had to finish it for The Armchair Librarians, I would have bailed. It was boring and sloppy and tedious and tried so hard to be The Girl on the Train but failed so hard. The main character was wholly unlikable and I gave zero fucks about what happened to her and I gave less fucks about the plot. And the ending sucked balls.

Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart. The Kopp sisters series is easily my favorite series of the last 5 years and I don’t generally like historical fiction. That’s how good this shit is. I love, love Constance’s tenacity and badassery and take no shit and get shit done and shut your face, I can take care of myself and don’t you tell me I can’t because I’m a woman attitude. We need more books about women like this, historical or fiction, and all the kudos to Amy Stewart for writing these. I swallowed this book whole in about 3 hours, I loved it so. It maybe wasn’t as good as Girl Waits with Gun but definitely close. 

Monster by Walter Dean Myers. I got this from last month’s SUYB but cannot remember who reviewed it but thank you to whomever that was. As a former juvenile probation officer, the subject of this book hurt me in places. It was such a creative way to tell Steve’s story, and the diary entries were particularly poignant but the end felt rushed. It tapered off when it shouldn’t have. For all the in-depth, thoughtful moments throughout the rest, it was disappointing. The author did a great job writing from Steve’s perspective and it really makes you think about some moral issues in our justice system. 

The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck by Sarah Knight. ALL THE YESSES TO THIS BOOK!!! I loved it so, so, so much. Hilarious and practical and perfect for anyone no matter your level of fuck-giving. You will learn, you will laugh, you will have revelations. This is book #1 in my adulting starter kit. However, if heavy swearing is not something you enjoy or if you are offended by that kind of language, then maybe pass. And she has a second book coming out in December. I CANNOT WAIT.

TL; DR: Add The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, Lady Cop Makes Trouble, and Small Great Things. Run away from Ruth Ware. 

Now it’s your turn! Link up and show us what you’ve read! Make sure you visit some other bloggers, too. And below the linkup is the giveaway so definitely check that out.

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Giveaway time!!!

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Here’s the prize breakdown (and of course they’re all book related): 

  • First prize = $50 Amazon gift card;
  • Second prize = banned books socks and a library card catalog coffee mug;
  • Third prize = reading journal and book ornament;
  • Fourth prize = card catalog pouch (when we bought it, Out of Print sent a book to a community in need, so it’s a feel good prize too). 

Good luck and thanks again for 2 amazing bookish years!!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Show Us Your Books, September edition: The one with the buzzy books

Remember how I said that August was going to be Westerns month? That declaration was slightly premature. While I had (and still have) several Westerns on my nightstand’s TBR pile, I only read one. Well, two if you count the DNF. Rather, this was the month of “it” books. I read three popular, much buzzed about books which is unusual for me (oh, and I’m currently reading a 4th. Review on that next month). 

The DNF book hindered my reading roll and I wound up only finishing my usual amount of books despite the extra week between August’s SUYB and September’s. Also on the list of August’s disappointments was being denied the ARC of Lady Cop Makes Trouble and Maria Semple’s new book. TWO. Two rejections. I think NetGalley is finally mad at me. HOW DO I SHOW YOU I’M SORRY?!

Let’s chat about what I did read since that’s why you came here today. As always, I’m copying my reviews straight from Litsy (now available for Android, I believe) with maybe a few extra words here or there. Follow me. My username or whatever is Jana. I know. I’m imaginative.

No Place by Todd Strasser The intent and heart of this book are in the right place, bringing a perspective to homelessness that’s not often shown in a fiction book, particularly a YA book. And he raised valid points in the plot. But it came across as oversimplified and what the author thinks happens to the homeless or goes through a kid’s head rather than what actually does and it came across as ignorant at times (ex., calling the homeless camp “Dignityville”). I wish he’d researched before writing. Would have had a better impact.

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson So. This book. The murdery parts were awesome, intriguing, and crazy and I couldn’t stop reading and the reason I didn’t DNF this one. I needed to keep learning about this psycho. The World’s Fair parts, not so much. Boring is too kind of a word. I appreciate the research (Todd Strasser could take notes on how to do research from this guy) and effort that went into it but good god, what a slog to get through. Drawn out and put me to sleep more than once. I know many love this book. I am not in that group.

I Love Everybody (and Other Atrocious Lies) by Laurie Notaro The title is basically the best part of this book. There were some amusing stories but overall, I found her bitter, kind of an asshole, and trying way too hard to be funny instead of actually being funny. I love a good humor memoir but honestly, this wasn’t it.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter Reading this book, I felt like someone who goes to an art show and sees a sculpture made of poker chips and branches and string and there are all these people around, saying how beautiful it is but you just don’t get it. You know you’re seeing something amazing and different but it’s confusing and you’re torn if you love or hate it. That’s this book. The writing is gorgeous and poetic and unique in its storytelling but I just didn’t get it. 

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch My brain does not comprehend science fiction. Especially the science part. So this book broke my brain a little, trying to understand the science behind what was happening. But, just like I did with The Martian, I muddled through that part to get to the story. Which was fantastic. Thriller, action, relationships…it all mixed together in this fast paced, unputdownable cocktail of awesome (you can hear my and Steph’s full thoughts on this in the most recent episode of The Armchair Librarians)

The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale This book took a bit to get into but I am glad I stuck it out. A gruesome, violent, sometimes funny and touching story starring morally ambiguous characters (and one wild hog. Literally. A hog) set in the late 1800s (or what I assume is the late 1800s). The writing was strong and I loved how the narrator broke the 4th wall at times. This book isn’t for everyone but if you can handle graphic violence and you like westerns and people with questionable morals and motives, get on this one. (Thanks, Erin, for the recommendation).

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead I generally do not enjoy historical fiction for so many reasons not worth discussing. But this book. Holy shit, did I enjoy this one. It was difficult to read at times (especially with the state of race relations in this country right now) and it made me sad and uncomfortable but that means it did its job. This book wasn’t supposed to make you comfortable or tell a fluffy bunny story. It takes place in a terrible, awful part of US history. And the way he told Cora’s story hurt, even with the occasional bits of optimism thrown in. It did drag at certain parts but just as it was getting dull, he’d shift gears and have an interlude about a different character. (This is an upcoming Armchair Librarians topic)

The Girls by Emma Cline So I don’t get the hype with this one. It was an interesting story, a topic that definitely is intriguing, and the teenage narrator was a good choice. But the book was S-L-O-W and boring at a number of points, although the writing could be gorgeous in its mundane. Actually, the writing was almost too pretty for the story it was telling. Like, a worse author should have written it. Anyway, I left the book feeling sad and disappointed. There should have been more or different or something else. I know that life isn’t always more or something else but this story set itself up for that and then fell completely flat. It did pass the time just fine but certainly not what I had hoped.

Doc by Mary Doria Russell. This was my DNF. I had to let this one go. I love the premise–a fictional account of Doc Holliday–but it was too easy to put down and too hard to pick up. Not for me. Not linking to it either because I want to spare you.

TL;DR: Add Dark Matter, The Thicket, and The Underground Railroad. You’ll be fine skipping the rest. 

Now it’s your turn. Show me what you’ve got! Don’t forget to visit Steph and some of the other participants because there’s a bunch of diversity out there and you never know when you’re going to stumble onto something. Nonbloggers, let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading! 

Next one is October 11. October is also the 2 year anniversary of Show Us Your Books and Steph and I have something planned. Look out for that. 

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Some of my favorite things. About books. Because what else would we talk about?

According to Litsy, today is National Read a Book Day. While every day around these parts is read a book day, I thought that, in honor of the day, we’d cover a few reasons why you should read books. Or why I love books. I think they’re interchangeable. way to read

  • Books do not care what you look like, how you smell, or if you even remembered to brush your teeth. Books do not judge.
  • Books are available to everyone, regardless of income (well, this is a post in and of itself because it’s really not that simple but we’ll discuss this another day)
  • Books are there for you, day or night. Especially in the night when you can’t sleep. 
  • You’re never lonely with a book.
  • With a book, you’re never bored. And with all the ways you can read books, you can always have one with you.
  • There’s a perfect book for everyone.
  • This:reading in quiet
  • They’re just so pretty!
  • You can learn AND be entertained with books.
  • JOBS! With books, there are so many jobs (also another post)
  • Books make great conversation starters as well as provide easy talking points.
  • They never go out of style. In fact, some get better with age.
  • Speaking of age, as you hit different ages, a book you once read becomes new again. Perspective is a glorious thing.
  • Books leave a legacy.
  • They make wonderful heirlooms.
  • Vocabulary, creativity, imagination, curiosity. They all get bigger with books. 
  • They open your eyes, your world. your mind

And because I love him so, let’s end with a quote from John Green:story purposeWhat are some of your favorite things about books?

Judging Covers with The Family: It’s Back

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Judging Covers

It’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these and The Child was begging and I can’t stand that sound so here were are. Let’s all be enlightened. 

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Book #1: The Girls by Emma Cline

The Child says: I think it’s about some criminal girls who don’t want to be arrested and they always wear sunglasses so the police can’t identify them.

The Husband says: (Jana’s note–he mulled this one over for a very long time. I formatted the rest of the post while I waited) To me, it’s a ripoff of Almost Famous but if I’m having to think what it’s about since it’s obviously not that, it makes me think it’s about girls who are sweet but are not really. They’re really dark.

Goodreads says: Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom, their careless dress, their dangerous aura of abandon. Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader. Hidden in the hills, their sprawling ranch is eerie and run down, but to Evie, it is exotic, thrilling, charged—a place where she feels desperate to be accepted. As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realize she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl’s life when everything can go horribly wrong.

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Book #2: The Thicket by Joe R. Lansdale

The Child says: About a really creepy man who wears a cloak over him and brings a horse out into the middle of this creepy, abandoned place which is kind of like the place where The Lorax takes place but scarier. It probably smells. His horse doesn’t like it very much. 

The Husband says: It’s definitely not a happy book. And (insert maniacal giggle) there’s definitely a horse involved in some way. And things are going to get thorny. Get it? THICKET! And the horse isn’t going to make it out.

Goodreads says: Jack Parker thought he’d already seen his fair share of tragedy. His grandmother was killed in a farm accident when he was barely five years old. His parents have just succumbed to the smallpox epidemic sweeping turn-of-the-century East Texas–orphaning him and his younger sister, Lula.

Then catastrophe strikes on the way to their uncle’s farm, when a traveling group of bank-robbing bandits murder Jack’s grandfather and kidnap his sister. With no elders left for miles, Jack must grow up fast and enlist a band of heroes the likes of which has never been seen if his sister stands any chance at survival. But the best he can come up with is a charismatic, bounty-hunting dwarf named Shorty, a grave-digging son of an ex-slave named Eustace, and a street-smart woman-for-hire named Jimmie Sue who’s come into some very intimate knowledge about the bandits (and a few members of Jack’s extended family to boot).

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Book #3: Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell

The Child says: This town that goes to war in the middle of the 1800s. And when they’re going to war, a cannonball gets out of control and makes a hole in the sky. Then people gets telescopes and try to study what’s in outer space based on those holes.

The Husband says: Definitely about those Wyatt Earp days and all the death that probably happened around there. Things were so crazy that they even shot up a saloon that had a picture of the town.

Goodreads says: A deeply divided nation. Vicious politics. A shamelessly partisan media. A president loathed by half the populace. Smuggling and gang warfare along the Mexican border. Armed citizens willing to stand their ground and take law into their own hands…

That was America in 1881.

All those forces came to bear on the afternoon of October 26th when Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers faced off against the Clantons and the McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona. It should have been a simple misdemeanor arrest. Thirty seconds and thirty bullets later, three officers were wounded and three citizens lay dead in the dirt.

Wyatt Earp was the last man standing, the only one unscathed. The lies began before the smoke cleared, but the gunfight at the O.K. Corral would soon become central to American beliefs about the Old West.

white trash

Book #4: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

The Child says: Pass because I don’t understand it (when explained to her this was nonfiction and she struggled with the concept of class as an economic/social status rather than an actual class)

The Husband says: It should say “this book will discuss the following”. That’s the only other thing it can do.

Goodreads says: The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement. They were alternately known as “waste people,” “offals,” “rubbish,” “lazy lubbers,” and “crackers.” By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called “clay eaters” and “sandhillers,” known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.

Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society––where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery.

Reconstruction pitted “poor white trash” against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics–-a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ’s Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty. Marginalized as a class, “white trash” have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.

winter family

Book #5: The Winter Family by Clifford Jackman

The Child says: I think that, based off of the blood, it is about people fighting for their rights (Husband: to party?) and when they’re fighting, there’s this snakes that comes around and starts killing people

The Husband says: It’s about a family called the Winter family and they are (long pause)…they have a business and they ship stuff in the 1800s and people try to steal from them but they fight back, protecting their company’s stuff.

Goodreads says: Spanning the better part of three decades, The Winter Family traverses America’s harsh, untamed terrain, both serving and opposing the fierce advance of civilization. Among its twisted specimens, the Winter Family includes the psychopathic killer Quentin Ross, the mean and moronic Empire brothers, the impassive ex-slave Fred Johnson, and the dangerous child prodigy Lukas Shakespeare. But at the malevolent center of this ultraviolent storm is their cold, hardened leader, Augustus Winter—a man with an almost pathological resistance to the rules of society and a preternatural gift for butchery. 

From their service as political thugs in a brutal Chicago election to their work as bounty hunters in the deserts of Arizona, there’s a hypnotic logic to Winter’s grim borderland morality that plays out, time and again, in ruthless carnage.

Jana says: is it obvious I have a theme going on?

Have you guys read any of these? What’d you think? I should have my opinion on them for the next Show Us Your Books on September 13th.

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Show Us Your Books, August edition: The one with short books

Second Tuesday of the month. You know what that means. 

Don’t forget to visit both me and Steph, some of the others linking up, and let me know what you’re reading in the comments if you forgot to write a post and/or you’re a non-blogger. 

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You guys. The Devil in the White City is murdering my reading mojo. The parts about the serial killer are fucking fascinating but getting through the parts about the coming together of the World’s Fair is a tedium I’ve never read through before. Since I’m still working through it, and cannot read more than 20 pages at a time (although I have taken to skipping the World’s Fair chapters completely and just reading the murdery ones), I also have a side book. As you do. And the side books this month have all been rather short. I don’t think I read one that was more than 350 pages. I was more eclectic than usual this month as well. No real reason. 

If you follow me on Litsy (I think my user name is just my name, Jana, because I am insanely creative), you’ve seen these reviews and I apologize but I am way too lazy to rereview them. 

Hurt People by Cote Smith. A decent thriller that I liked, not loved. The premise was great, the plot well executed, the tension was palpable, and he’s an engaging writer but the fact that that narrator was what I pictured to be a 9 year old boy became tiring after awhile. I don’t know how to properly describe it but there was a lot of what the narrator imagined would happen in a scenario before there was actually what happened. It bothered me. Also, the two main characters didn’t have names. I’m sure it’s a stylistic choice to make a point but it bothered me.

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin. Emily, you and I are done. Between the last book and this piece of shit, I can’t read you anymore. In fact, the best thing I can say about this book is that it was better than your last one. I loathed the characters, the plot, and it was difficult to care about anything that happened, even the sad stuff. And, having struggled with infertility issues, the whole pregnancy/baby daddy/sperm donor storyline was oversimplified and borderline offensive. This was an ARC from NetGalley and I think I’m supposed to thank the publisher for the book, too, but I can’t remember who it is. Sorry, publisher. 

The Invoice by Jonas Karlsson. This book sort of reminded me of a literary version of Defending Your Life (the movie with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep where he dies and goes on trial to see if he goes to heaven or has to try life again. It’s a great movie if you’ve not seen it). What I liked most about the book was not the writing or characters, which were good and interesting, respectively, but the way it makes you think about the value of happiness and how we measure a life. It’s a quick, thoughtful read and while it starts off slow, it’s worth it to keep going. This was a NetGalley ARC as well. 

Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa. After this book, I am now obsessed with her and I swear it has nothing to do with the fact that she regrammed my blurb about her book on IG. She’s just fucking awesome and I cannot wait to get my hands on her other books. This book, though, is funny and real and honest and packed with self-help information that anyone of any age can use and she gives it in such a noncondescending way that you feel empowered after you read it. She says that she loves Amy Poehler (there’s a whole chapter about it) and this book actually reminds me of Yes Please. Personal stories with a tinge of self-deprecation intertwined with life lessons and almost no ego or braggadocio (and trust when I say she has plenty to brag about). Even if you don’t like self-help books, read this one. 

The Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon. If you listen to The Armchair Librarians, you know my thoughts on this book but to sum up: what a badass, pioneering, smart, determined woman we have sitting on the bench. This country is better because of her. Not only did she advocate and fight for equality but her own personal struggles and triumphs over the discrimination she faced made it all that more compelling of a read. Her relationship with her husband was incredible and the chapter at the end for how to live like RBG is probably my favorite. The only con is reading through the legalese but the authors break it down pretty well. 

Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss. I’m not sure exactly what it is about this book that made me enjoy it so much. But there was something about the way the characters intersected and the way she wrote, like she was in my living room, telling me a story instead of writing it, and the backdrop of 1980 and the NYC arts scene that made it a compelling, heartbreaking, and beautiful read. I feel like this book is what Sweetbitter tried to do. 

Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard. I enjoy Hannah Pittard as a writer. Having read all of her books, I say that with certainty. She weaves a story with beautifully and perfectly choiced words, and, since her books are short, precision. She tells wonderful narratives and constructs realistic plots. That said, this book did not do what I wanted it to. The defining moment of the plot was rushed, and I felt completely misled as to what it was going to be, and there was too much minutia instead. And that type of climactic moment usually reduces me to tears but in this book, it felt too clinical and matter of fact. There was no emotion connected to it. And Mark, the husband, is a raging turd. He almost ruined the book. I hated him and wanted him to go away. 

TL;DR–Add Tuesday Nights in 1980, Real Artists Have Day Jobs, The Notorious RBG. The Invoice if you need a quick vacation book. Avoid Emily Giffin. Watch Defending Your Life

Your turn. You know what to do. Next one is September 13. 

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